Archive for March, 2009

reynasnew-picture-for-indexIt is my pleasure to have here today a very special Latino young writer. Her name is Reyna Grande and she is the author of the acclaimed novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, winner of the 2007 American Book Award. Her next book, titled Dancing With Butterflies, will be coming out later this year.

Thanks for being here today, Reyna.

Your novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, has won awards and garnered excellent reviews. Did you expect such acclaim when you first started writing the novel?

Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect. It was my first book, and i didn’t know it would be published. I didn’t even know what Publisher’s Weekly was. Now I know all about book reviewers, and sometimes I wish I didn’t. It adds too much pressure.

Across a Hundred Mountains deals with the loss of a father, while your upcoming novel, Dancing With Butterflies, focuses on the unhappiness that comes from the loss of a mother. Is the theme of loss recurrent in your work? What other themes obssess you?

Loss is one of the themes I write about because I experienced the loss of a mother and father when my parents left me in Mexico when they came to work in the U.S. I don’t think I’m obsessed with anything. I just write about what is important to me or interests me. I like to write about things specific to my culture, as well.

What’s a typical writing day for you? How long does it take you to finish a book?

Every day is different for me, but in general this is how I write 1) when my one year old daughter takes a nap 2) late at night (like right now it’s 3 am and everyone is sleeping 3) sometimes if I really can’t get my characters out of my head I have to take the kids to the sitter for a couple of hours 4) in airports and airplanes and hotel rooms when I’m traveling (which is often) 5) when I’m driving around L.A. and I’m stuck in traffic I write in my head.

You do a lot of school visits and read your work to young adults. What is their usual reaction and what do you think appeals to them from your work?

acrossThe usual reaction I get from students is that they are just happy to meet a real flesh and blood author. The latino students are happy to meet someone who LOOKS like them, who has experienced something similar to what they are going through and who writes about things they can relate to. I grew up reading books like Sweet Valley High and when I first read The House on Mango Street I was 19 years old and it impacted me so much because it was one of the first books I read where I could SEE myself/experiences in those pages…I think this is how students feel when they read Across a Hundred Mountains.

What advice would you give aspiring Latino novelists who are looking for a publisher?

I think first of all they need to work really hard in making their work the best that it can be. There’s a lot of competition out there, and we need to work extra hard in order to stand out. Just like with any other job, where you need to be twice as good. I also encourage aspiring writers to attend writer’s conferences because you need to meet other writers, both professional and non-professional, and everyone in the book business. It’s good to make connections.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I want aspiring writers to remember that there’s always room for a good story, and to not give up. We are latinos. We are fighters. We don’t give up.

Thanks, Reyna!

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violin2The Violin Lover is a beautifully written novel, one that fans of violin music, as well as readers of serious literary fiction, will particularly appreciate.

The story takes place in England during the start of the Second World War, just before the invasion of Hitler into Germany. Young widow Clara Weiss lives with her three young children in a Jewish sector of London. Her oldest son, Jacob, is eleven years old and a gifted pianist. Clara lives for her children and is extremely protective towards them, her nurturing qualities sometimes falling into compulsive obsession.

At a Christmas concert one night, Clara is introduced to Ned Abraham, not only a medical doctor but also an accomplished violinist. At once, Clara is taken with the tall, mysterious man with the dark hair and black, deep-set eyes. Jacob’s music teacher insists he should play a piece with Jacob in the future, and this is how Ned takes young Jacob under his wing. Soon, the attraction between Clara and Ned intensifies, and they become secret lovers. In time, and as their relationship progresses, Clara begins to feel jealous of Jacob and Ned’s bond and resents their friendship. Their liason, which is mostly characterized by Clara’s dependence and Ned’s indifference, ends up having tragic consequences for all involved.

The Violin Lover is a compelling, unusual read. Though it moved a bit slow in the beginning, it picked up pace after the first few chapters and by the middle I had become quite engrossed. Glickman is a fine writer and this shows in her smooth, sometimes symbolic prose. There are small segments in the story which really are allegories of Clara’s obsessive dependence and controlling behavior, like the part where she insists that ducks in the river must be fed or they’ll die; she’s unable to realize that ducks may very well survive on their own. This also symbolizes her over protectiveness toward her children, especially with Jacob, who is growing into a young man and needs more independence, something she is unable to offer.

The relationship between Clara and Ned is both dark and fascinating. Glickman’s has an obvious gift for characterization, as well as for showing the characters’ emotions rather than spelling them out. The story is mostly narrative with not as much dialogue as I expected. There are many sections where the story is quickly narrated instead of being shown with actual dialogue and characters’ actions, and this made the pace feel a bit rushed at times. It is a novel that will make readers ponder: who is the villain and who is the victim? Clara or Ned? I think readers will love and hate both of them at some point or another.

If you love classical music or play the piano or the violin, you will enjoy the music descriptions, told with the sensibility of someone who shares this same passion.

This novel is available on Amazon.

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Hi all,

I’d like to announce that I’m the first Latino Books Examiner for The Examiner.

Read my first article: Marta Acosta’s World of Vampires


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Bev Walton-Porter is an author, reviewer, freelancer, editor and publisher. She's the lady behind the succesful ezine, Scribe & Quill. Her books include Sun Signs for Writers, The Complete Writer: A Guide to Tapping Your Full Potential, and Mending Fences. Her work has appeared on many publications, both print and online. In this interview, Porter talks about her ezine and about various aspects of book reviewing.
How long have you been reviewing?
Wow…let me think! About 11 years, when I first became a full-time professional with my writing. I have reviewed books for Inkspot (the awesome site run by Debbie Ridpath Ohi many years ago), The Charlotte Austin Review website (now defunct), Bridges (based out of B.C. Canada), Suite101, Inscriptions, and, of course, Scribe & Quill.  
Please tell us about Scribe & Quill. How and when did it get started?
My site isn't just for book reviews. Scribe & Quill covers many areas related to writing, reading and publishing – including book reviews. I first launched Scribe & Quill as a small e-zine on ListBot in the late 90s and it has evolved into a larger e-zine with 6,000+ subscribers, plus a web site, editing services and online professional writing courses that dovetail with and complement the zine.
I think longevity is our greatest hallmark. Scribe & Quill has been around in some form or another for over a decade, and in the online world (especially for small-size e-zines), that's a long time! 
What is the most challenging aspect of running a review site?
Finding reliable reviewers who are also willing to review both print and electronically published books. We also like our reviewers to be willing to review any type of book, and sometimes that can be a challenge as well. 
How many books do you review a month?
Since we no longer publish monthly, but rather quarterly, we publish five to ten reviews per issue. Due to the influx of review books, it's likely we'll publish additional ones on the site in between issues of the zine. 
How many staff reviewers do you have?
Ten, but we are looking for more. 
Are you currently recruiting more reviewers? If so, what are your guidelines?
Yes we are! Our guidelines can be found here. For further information, send an e-mail to scribequill@gmail.com with REVIEWER in the e-mail subject line. 
How should an author contact you about a review request? Do you review e-books as well?
Have them send an e-mail to scribequill@gmail.com with REVIEW REQUEST in the subject line. We welcome e-books and actually prefer electronic copies of review books. 
How do you select the books you review? How do you determine which reviews to post on your site?
If you send us a book, unrequested, we may or may not review it, depending on our current queue. It's best to send a query first, then we'll let you know how to submit your book for review. We receive countless books per year for review and most are suitable for review. However, if your book includes questonable or perhaps illegal content, we may choose not to review it. In all cases, we reserve the right not to review any particular book due to a variety of reasons. However, we publish reviews of all books we select for review. 
Do you think there’s a lot of ‘facile praise’ among many online review sites? What is your policy when it comes to negative reviews?
First and foremost, we want honest reviews. That means that while we are always pleased to find books that get an excellent review from us, we are aware that some books won't always hit that top mark. Therefore, while we will run a review about a book that may not be completely positive, we try to be tactful about our criticisms and comments about a book.  There's usually something constructive that can be said in the face of a not-so-good book. For instance, there's a tactful, yet honest way of mentioning that a book's characters could be fleshed out, and then offering suggestions for how the author might have done that more successfully.  
There was a lot of controversy last year between print publication reviewers and online bloggers. In your opinion, what defines a ‘legitimate’ reviewer?
If you review a book, whether in print or online, you're 'legitimate.' I think it's a silly argument that is a waste of time and breath. Just review books and stop with the silly in-fighting over such things. We have better tasks to accomplish and can better use our energies. 
What is your stand on paid reviews?
I believe if a publication pays for reviews, that's obviously a good thing. However, if you're asking if I think it's legitimate for authors or publishers to pay for people to review their books, I would have to say I believe that's unethical. If you pay someone to review a book and you're an author or a publisher, then it seems you're 'buying' a positive review.  In addition, I believe if you have a personal or professional 'axe to grind' against an author or publisher, I believe you should not review any books related to said author or publisher. I've seen reviewers and others try to inflict damage on an author's reputation and work by posting less-than-positive reviews that were based on a personal vendetta rather than an objective view of the book itself.   
Do you think it’s okay for reviewers to resell the books or advance review copies they review? 
If a reviewer has many books and needs, for whatever reason, to thin out his/her previously read and reviewed books, then I think donating them to the library would be the first recommended action. I don't believe advance review copies should be sold or donated under any circumstance, though.  
What are the most common mistakes amateur reviewers make?
Going over or under the word count. This is because they either haven't been detailed enough with their review, or they haven't imparted the necessary information and criticism in a succint and cogent manner.  
With so many major newspapers getting rid of their book review sections, how do you see the future of online review sites?
I believe online review sites will continue to grow, and if there's a shortage of reviews in print papers, that void will be filled by online reviews and reviewers. 
Do you keep the author’s feelings in mind when you review?
Yes, in that comments or criticism about a book and its author should always be constructive, as well as honest. I believe a criticism or a comment should be constructive rather than just mean or intentionally nit-picky. Authors put their hearts and souls into their books.  
Have you received aggressive responses from authors or publishers because of a negative review? If yes, how do you handle it?
Yes, on occasion. I respond to the author and/or publisher and explain that we strive for honest reviews of books, but realize that reviews ARE subjective. While one reader or reviewer may love a book, another one may not for various reasons. My stance is if you don't want an honest review of your book by a reviewer, then perhaps you shouldn't send us a copy for review. Also, keep in mind that one reviewer's take on a book does not necessarily reflect how *I* personally would view that book, nor is it the end-all, be-all review of the book.  
What does your site offer readers?
We offer articles, interviews, columns and book reviews about all aspects of writing, authors and publishing. We also occasionally publish fiction and poetry, so there's a smorgabord of available 'treats' for people who love to read. 
What promotional opportunities does your site offer authors?
Authors may send us press releases about their upcoming book releases and we'll run them in our e-zine for no charge. In addition, if an author is launching a promotional tour, we'll run announcements on that as well. Finally, we do offer paid text ads and banners for more lengthy and concentrated exposure. 
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a reviewer? The most challenging?
The most rewarding is, of course, discovering new authors and books that you may not have otherwise discovered. The most challenging is balancing the commitment to both readers and authors/publishers when it comes to a fair and honest assessment of a book. 
Is there anything else you would like to say about you or Scribe & Quill?
I'd also like to invite readers to also visit a couple of my other sites they may find of interest: Sun Signs for WritersInt'l Order of Horror Professionals site and my own website with links and information on my nonfiction and fiction books Thanks for giving me this opportunity!  
Thank you, Bev!

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Today on The Dark Phantom I have a wonderful guest post by Mark H. Phillips, author of The Resqueth Revolution. To promote his science fiction book, Phillips is touring the blogosphere this March. This post pertains to the second part of his article. To read the first part, visit Write First, Clean Later.

How to Write Exciting Action Scenes – Part 2 of 2

Today we continue our discussion with the second rule of action writing: do your research and make sure the details are convincing. Do you know the difference between a roundhouse and a spinning back fist? What’s the difference between a side snap kick and a hook kick? How does one use a kubotan or a manriki-charlottegusari? How much different does the recoil feel between a 9 mm Luger and a Smith & Weston .500 caliber revolver? While personal experience is the best research, you can absorb a wealth of convincing detail from the Internet, gun and sports magazines, watching action films, reading action novels, and watching real mayhem such as martial arts, boxing, and even pro wrestling.

This brings us to our third and last rule. For those of you out there who have been spared the awful curse of testosterone poisoning or for those of you who have fully absorbed the civilizing influences of culture, writing action scenes may mean deliberately and meticulously pondering feelings that you will find repellent in the extreme. It seems, to many of us, both counterintuitive and morally wrong that our audience desperately craves to know what it’s like to slam the edge of your foot hard enough into someone’s kneecap for it to snap. Why would anyone, except a psychopath, revel in the opponent’s screams as his shattered leg folds beneath him? The third rule of action writing, at least writing about violent confrontations, is that you must open yourself to bloodlust. I doubt anyone can write consistently arousing pornography who feels no arousal when they write. I doubt anyone can write consistently convincing villains unless they have opened themselves, at least temporarily, to truly evil thoughts and feelings. You can compose jazz without feeling much of anything, but only those who have felt deep, dark anguish and pain have ever written quality blues. I doubt anyone can write consistently exciting action scenes involving violent confrontation without feeling bloodlust.

Without opening yourself to your inner bloodlust you still may be able to write convincing chase scenes or fights against natural disasters, but writing about violence, including violent action, requires being open to bloodlust. This is true, even if your first person protagonist explicitly rejects the bloodlust within her, feeling appalled at the carnage she reluctantly must mete out. You, the writer, had to dwell on the carnage and your reader will lap up the details of it with relish. Many of you cannot watch boxing, nor understand the avid fascination of its fans. But if you were going to hire someone to write about a boxing match, wouldn’t you hire an expert who was both literate and an avid fan?

While writing action, remember the three rules. Imagine you are witnessing the action in real life or a movie and try to capture every necessary detail. Slow everything down so your reader has the time to become caught up in those details, while making your prose as “ripped” ands lean as possible. Do your research so the details are either accurate or convincing. And with violent confrontational action, access your suppressed bloodlust. If you can’t become excited by the action you are writing, I doubt your reader will either. Learn to like action. Come over to the Dark Side.

Here is an action scene from the next entry in the Eva Baum detective series, The Golden Key, written with my brilliant co-author and lovely wife Charlotte Phillips. I’ve actually considerably condensed and simplified it, eliminating about half the protagonists/antagonists. In the finished work, this fight with a prefight setup and postfight wrap up constitutes an entire chapter.

I dragged myself off the pavement and stood. I staggered as the asphalt below me seemed to roll and tilt wildly. The boy who had thrown the heavy chunk of curb laughed as he emerged from the hedge on my right. His voice was a cruel growl. “For such a little bitch she can take a hit.”

The two who had faced me originally congratulated him on his throw. They were the St. Thomas jocks I had fingered for the police as the gay basher source of the threats to Chaps. A wave of nausea and pain washed through me leaving me shivering in a cold sweat. I knew the night breeze was cool, but it felt warm on my skin. I spit out a mouthful of blood along with some fragments of teeth.

The largest boy, Unibrow, slapped his baseball bat against the palm of his other hand while his comrades moved to surround me. Despite my nausea I slowly turned to watch the others. Slackjaw held an ax handle like a samurai sword. Good posture; perhaps some martial arts training? He looked the most nervous of the bunch, glancing constantly to Unibrow for moral support and directions. Mouthbreather, the one who had clocked me with the chunk of curb now had a crowbar in each meaty hand and was nearly skipping in place, rolling his shoulders, trying to stay loose but also jacked up on something.

I centered myself, controlling my breath, lowering my body into a horse stance. I flicked the catch on the ‘jewelry’ wrapped around my right forearm. The weighted ball fell into my palm as the 10-foot steel chain of the manriki-gusari unwound. I made sure that its inner slipknot loop was tight around my wrist. With my left hand I pulled the kubotan free from the string around my neck. Grasped firmly in my left fist, its fat blunt steel spike projected below the base of my fist and the two thinner spikes projected between my clenched fingers.

By the time they charged I had entered the zone Sensei was always talking about. No time for thought or fear—just act. I threw the ball sidearm, letting the chain unwind, practically sensing Unibrow’s nose pulling the ball towards it. I heard bone shatter and saw blood fly as Unibrow staggered back. The bat fell to the pavement as his hands clawed at his face.

I jerked the chain back and caught the ball high in my left hand, rising instinctively into a cat stance. With the loops of chain pulled taught between my hands I blocked Slackjaw’s downward slash, diverting his rush to my right and throwing him off balance. When he extended his right leg forward to keep himself from falling I slammed the edge of my right foot into the side of his knee. There was a wet popping as his knee folded sideways, followed by a hideous high-pitched scream. The scream cut off instantly as I whipped the weight and loops of chain against the side of his head.

I rolled behind Slackjaw’s crumpled form, then slid left, trying to put Slackjaw between me and Mouthbreather. Mouthbreather chose to leap over his fallen comrade. He stretched himself into a half-moon, feet trailing, with both crowbars far over and behind his head, pelvis and belly thrust forward. I planted my right foot and threw my whole body towards him. My left foot locked into place under my forward knee in a classic deep front stance. I channeled all my forward momentum into my left arm, twisting it as it lashed out. The thin spikes of the kubotan tore through the flesh just above where Mouthbreather’s left leg met his torso. Steel met pelvic bone just as my arm locked into place. I was unmovable. I felt the pelvic bone shatter as he folded around my fist. The crowbars went flying to clatter down the street. His left knee just brushed my left cheek. He fell mewling onto Slackjaw.

Unibrow had found his bat and returned to the fray. I backed him up with short-loop figure eights, and then pirouetted to extend the last loop low. The chain wrapped his feet together. I jerked hard and sent him to the pavement. The back of his head bounced off the pavement with a dull thump.

Do you have any questions about writing action scenes that have not been answered? Use the comments link below to ask and I’ll do my best to provide an answer.


BIO: Mark H. Phillips grew up in central Illinois reading the classics—especially Greek mythology, James Bond novels and lots and lots of Batman comics. He is a graduate of both the University of Illinois mark(BA—Philosophy) and Northwestern University (MA—Philosophy). Mark currently lives in Houston with his wife, Charlotte. He teaches pre-calculus and political philosophy at Bellaire High School. Mark has been a member of Houston’s The Final Twist Writers for two years.

Mark, who has been writing stories and political tracts for as long as he can remember, submitted his first stories to a magazine editor when he was twelve years old. That editor’s kind and encouraging response fueled the fire that was already burning.

Previous publications include the mystery novel Hacksaw, First in the Eva Baum Detective Series and an Eva Baum short story in A Death in Texas (an anthology). Mark is currently working on the second Eva Baum novel and a short story for an anthology titled A Box of Texas Chocolates.


The Resqueth Revolution blog tour continues tomorrow at Book Talk Corner (www.booktalkcorner.today.com) where Mayra Calvini interviews Mark. If you enjoyed the article on writing action scenes, you may want to check out Mark’s article on violence in fiction and film on March 24 at Brain Cells and Bubble Wrap (http://vivianzabel.blogspot.com/). See Char’s Book Reviews and Writing News (http://charsbookreviews.blogspot.com/) blog for the full tour schedule and information on how you can win an autographed copy of The Resqueth Revloution.

Followers of the 2009 Resqueth Revolution blog tour will have two opportunities to win.
1) Everyone who leaves a comment on the tour will receive one drawing entry per comment per blog site. Two entries will be drawn at random and the winners will receive their very own, signed copy of The Resqueth Revolution.
2) Everyone who answers all quiz questions correctly will be enterred into a drawing for the grand prize – a signed copy of The Resqueth Revolution, a Resqueth pen, magnet and calendar, and a signed copy of Hacksaw, First in the Eva Baum Detective Series.

Buy from B&N
Buy from Amazon

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Available on Amazon

If you like mystery novels with rich plots that dig into the past, then you’ll enjoy Silenced Cry by Marta Stephens.

During a routine pick-up for questioning, Detective Sam Harper loses his partner and friend, Gillies. Harper is confused and distraught by the event, which happens under suspicious circumstances. Soon afterwards he’s called to solve a murder case like none he’s been involved before: the homicide of an infant. In a rundown building that’s about to be demolished, trapped behind a wall, they find the skeletal remains of an newborn baby. To make matters worse, the murder seems to have taken place not recently but over a decade ago, making the investigation a lot harder.

As Detective Harper begins to investigate, a line of suspects slowly emerges. The detective must moved back in time in order to uncover the terrible events which let to the infant’s demise. Soon he’s pulled into a vortex of drugs, corruption, rape and murder as other members of the police force become suspects. At the same time, someone wants the case close and the building demolished as soon as possible, someone who doesn’t want Harper opening the door to the past.

Who murdered the infant? Is the murder only a small part of a much larger set of crimes which have been kept secret all these years? Is Harper ready to face the truth and come to terms with the results of his own investigation?

Silenced Cry is deftly crafted and an impressive first novel. The pace moves steadily without being too quick nor too slow, allowing the reader to savor each stage of the investigation. The dialogue is sharp and natural and the prose focuses on the action without letting unnecessary details and description get in the way. The police procedurals read realistically, giving the impression that the author either knows well about the subject or did a fair amount of research. For me, this was not a thriller that read at a fast pace, but a ‘gourmet’ mystery that I enjoyed at every stage of the story. Sam Harper is a likable character, but I would say that this is a plot-driven novel more than a character-driven one. Our detective protagonist is sympathetic, but there were times when, for me, he got lost in the midst of the plot. I feel he would have stood out more given stronger, more sharply defined characteristics or quirks. This is an observation more than a criticism, as it didn’t lessen by desire to keep on reading. The secondary characters are quite realistic as well, especially some of the suspects–though I don’t dare say more for fear of giving away spoilers.

Marta Stephens is a mystery author to watch out for. I will be soon reviewing the second book in the series, The Devil Can Wait, and I have to say I’m very much looking forward to it. If you enjoy an intelligently crafted detective story, I recommend you give this one a try.

I should point out that Detective Sam Harper has his own character blog a Sam Harper Crime Scene.

–Mayra Calvani

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Thomas Phillips is the author of The Molech Prophecy, a novel that blends elements of mystery, suspense and religion. In this interview, Phillips talks about this his latest novel, his unexpected success, and the craft of writing, among other things. His story is intriguing–though he had published 5 mystery novels in the past, it was not until he became a full Christian that success really knocked on his door. Read how he began writing his novel in August, finished it in December, signed with an agent in February, and sold it to a large publisher in September.  

Thanks for being my guest today, Thomas. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

A little about me, huh? Well, I work full time as an employment law paralegal. Always wanted to be a police officer. Went to college for a criminal justice degree. Turns out, my eye sight was so bad, there was no way I would ever pass the police physical. (So writing mysteries is a way for me to fulfill that dream).

I was married for fifteen years and have three awesome kids (two boys, and a girl). My kids are my life. No way around it. I live for them. My goal is to write full time. It may take years and years, and to be honest, it may never happen, but it is what I strive for. Aside from my kids, writing, and work, I enjoy playing guitar. I have a few acoustics. I sing when I play. You’d never want to hear me sing though, really. It’s that bad. But I have fun, regardless!

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I grew up with a reading disability. It wasn’t until seventh grade that I finally read a book, cover to cover. It was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. When I found out she was 16 when she wrote that, I was like—man, I’m a storyteller, maybe I can write books? Maybe I can inspire reluctant readers—and from that day forward, yeah, I knew I’d be a writer.

I had the first short-story I ever wrote published in the high school annual magazine. It was called, "I Made It," and it was about a bus-boy who always had to scrub pots and pans until one day – he got to bus tables. How funny is that? You write about what you know. At 14, that’s about all I knew.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

I am very excited about The Molech Prophecy. The back cover summary reads:

Former gang member Tommy Cucinelle thought he had left his old life behind when he became a Christian. That's why he's surprised when his pastor asks him to use his old "skills"–finding people who don't want to be found–to locate the church secretary after she mysteriously disappears and the church is vandalized. The police don't have any leads.

Tommy's investigation brings him face-to-face with the unpleasant memories from the past that threaten his new identity, but turmoil is soon the least of his worries. A local Wiccan church is at the heart of the mystery, and Tommy's search uncovers a startling prophecy about child sacrifice to the pagan god Molech. When the missing woman's sister–Tommy's newfound romantic interest–disappears as well, the quest becomes personal.

To explain the inspiration … well, this is a long-winded answer. Bear with me …

In 1995 I began my professional writing career with the sale of my first short story. From there, I went on to sell more than 70 short stories and articles until in mid-2000, my first secular novels were published.

By 2003 I had five mystery novels under my belt. And then in April, everything changed.
I became a Christian.

It wasn’t that anyone told me to stop writing, or to change the way I wrote. It was that I realized the books I’d written did nothing to honor God. With sex, bad language and graphic, sensless violence filling my pages, I knew I needed to take a break.

It was bad timing for my then-publisher. My first hardcover had recently been released, and I decided not to do much to promote it. As a New Christian, I was confident that the works I’d written—as I said—did nothing to bring honor and glory to God. At that point, I quit writing, more or less.

But, eventually, I got into writing weekly devotionals for my church’s e-newsletter.

In late 2005, I began a journey into a deep, dark valley. I felt like God was testing me. As time went on, I realized, the valley only got deeper and darker. In the fall of 2006, I was inspired to write a new mystery novel. But this would be a Christian themed work.

I believe that God allowed me to begin to work my way out of the valley through writing. Only this time, He wanted me to write books that glorified Him (and not just feed my own insatiable need for fame).

When I completed the manuscript, I managed to sign with an awesome agent and she placed the work with Whitaker House in just a few months.

See, my earlier works were all released through small presses. Overall sales were small. But, at the time, I was happy to be publishing at all.

The big difference is that for the first time, I’ve landed a large publisher. An awesome publisher, I might add. And I believe that this happened because I’ve changed from secular to Christian writing. I like to believe that God is blessing this new ministry I’ve undertaken, and that, perhaps, He is more pleased with my writing than He has been in the past.

The key, however, will still be visibility. Getting my name out there. There are so many talented suspense writers. Before, for me, it was about competition. Now, it’s not. It’s about spreading a message. Sharing my faith through my stories in some way. And I’ve talked with some great writers (James Scott Bell, Mark Mynheir, Eric Wilson) who have been nothing but supportive and helpful.

I want to be sure I answer the questions. There is a difference. It’s not about making money. Not this time around. Sure, I’d love to make my living writing full time. What writer wouldn’t? But I’m not consumed with that thought – the way I used to be.

And I think my latest works are some of the best stuff I’ve ever written. You always hear writers say things like, You have to write for you. That was the old me. Now, when I write it is for me, yes, but for others, as well. And although I guarantee my characters are flawed, and like real people, there will always be God’s presence in power, and love fit in between the pages. I didn’t have that before. Thankfully, I have that now.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

Stream-of-consciousness, mostly. I don’t use an outline. I do map out some direction, but it is a vague map. Before I begin writing, I basically know the beginning, middle and end. It’s getting from point A to B to C that is the fun of the journey. I find that using an outline can restrict the process. However, I am always aware of drifting, too. Drifting is not so good, lol.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Fiction still needs to be factual. I book covers aspects of Wicca, and pagan rituals. I’m not saying that everything is factual in the story, but I needed to understand the “truth” before I could bend and twist things to work the way I needed things to work. A shocking thing I discovered was that Rochester has a huge Wicca and pagan population. All I hope is that my book will be well received by all.

Who is your target audience?

You get to learn a lot about the main character, Tommy, through flashbacks to when he was a teenager. I believe that in doing this, The Molech Prophecy will appeal to mystery/suspense/thriller fans spanning from age 14 and up … and love knowing that the book is content-appropriate for such potential readers. It is dark, gritty and intense, but still appropriate.

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

I hope that readers will come away with one main lesson. Christians are people. Flawed. Real. Being a Christian does not mean your life is now on auto-pilot. In fact, the Bible promises a tougher road for those who proclaim Christ as their Savior. In a way, I show that to readers in my story. (Non-Christians are always quick to point out mistakes Christians make, as if to say, ah-ha! Caught you! There is nothing to catch. We all make mistakes. I make them daily! That’s to be expected. No one, except Jesus, was or ever will be perfect. It’s that simple, yet, this is something that is often overlooked.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

I am both. It is from my life experiences, my daydreams and nightmares that my stories are born out of. Someone once said, I have no idea who, that there are no bad experiences in a writer’s life, only opportunities. (I’m sure I mangled the quote—but the context of it is accurate!)

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

I started writing The Molech Prophecy in August 2006. I finished it in December. Signed with an agent in February, and sold it to Whitaker House in September 2007. It hits stores July 1, 2008. I believe this is pretty fast, and not very common. I feel blessed for the opportunity.

Describe your working environment.

For years it was my kitchen table. The last year has been the Starbucks at Barnes & Noble. But since the beginning of June, this new coffee house, Café Amenity, opened up right by my apartment. I write there now. All the time. I use an iPod with earphones, volume up, and plug away for hours, several days a week.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I believe in getting it all down on paper first. This could be because I hate the edit and re-write process with such passion that procrastination drives me, lol. Seriously, getting the story down is important for several reasons. First, it is too easy to lose momentum if you stop to edit. Second, it is too easy to delay the completion of the manuscript. And third, the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a manuscript give me the stamina to roll up my sleeves and edit. I have a great friend who has been writing his novel for 9 years. That’s too long. It’s the best half of a book I’ve ever read. Every word. Every period. Every character. All perfect. But the work’s not done yet. The time he dedicates to the editing and re-writing take away from the time he could be spending on simply finishing the story.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

I’ve never heard that. Not as a stereotype. I believe I—can’t speak for all—worry more about what people will think of my story, and not so much about actual negative criticism. Naturally, I want people to like what I’ve written. Over the years, one thing I have developed is a thick skin. I have enough rejections to wallpaper a home ten times. Never would have kept keeping on if I didn’t have a thick skin, or if I’d had a fragile ego. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like what I’ve written, but I want to know why. Can’t improve my writing if someone just tells me the book stunk.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

Book signings where no one shows and I sit alone at a table for two hours trying to make my pen the most interesting object in the world…

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

http://www.myspace.com/authorthomasphillips and

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

My publisher is holding my second manuscript, Convicted, hostage. They want to see some sales numbers roll in on The Molech Prophecy before they decide whether to offer another contract. I hope they do. I think Whitaker House has been awesome to work with.

This is the summary for Convicted:

Best-selling mystery author, Noah Fuller, shocks his readers when he announces that he’ll only be writing mysteries with a Christian theme from now on. When angry letters are sent to the publisher, his agent and even to his house, Fuller is certain the storm will pass. But when his four-year-old son is abducted from a grocery store parking lot, the police suspect the author’s fans are more than just fanatical.

In an attempt to employ his fame, Fuller utilizes the media to generate a nationwide search for his son.

However, the police investigation uncovers a dark secret about Fuller’s past that threatens to kill his new writing career, his marriage and the very life of his son…

I am a heart beat away from finishing a third manuscript, I call Line of Fire, and am half way into a fourth – a unique vampire/mafia style thriller (yes, it is still Christian fiction), and have mapped out the idea for fifth.

I hope to be writing Christian fiction for a long, long, time!

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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Founded in 2002 by Hilary Williamson, BookLoons now offers readers close to 10,000 reviews on various genres–from children's to teens to most adult categories. Williamson is very selective when recruiting reviewers and edits all reviews herself before they appear on the site.  On average, between 100-150 reviews are added to BookLoons each month. If you're interested in becoming a BookLoons reviewer or would like to submit your book for review, contact Williamson at editor@bookloons.com.

Thanks for stopping by today, Hilary. Please tell us about your book review site. How and when did it get started?

I launched BookLoons in Fall 2000 as a place for people to connect to books that interest them, in a broad range of genres, covering mainly new releases but also old favorites that site visitors might have missed over the years …

What makes BookLoons stand out among so many other online review sites?

That question might better be addressed to our site visitors :-).

But we do aim for a consistent quality of review. I pick reviewers carefully and edit all our reviews. We also cover a broad range of genres, which some might see as an advantage or the converse. 30-40 new reviews are added weekly. Also reviews (we have close to 10,000 now) remain online permanently and are available through a variety of search paths.

What is the most challenging aspect of running a review site?

Time :-). I write a significant percentage of our reviews myself, do all the site updates, and also spend a great deal of time communicating via email with publicists and reviewers.

How many books do you review a month?

We post somewhere between 100 and 150 new reviews every month on BookLoons.

How many staff reviewers do you have?

We have close to thirty, about a quarter Canadian and the majority from the United States. However, some are much more active than others, and some are quite specialized in what they review, while others (including myself) read broadly.

How should an author contact you about a review request? Do you review e-books as well?

We obtain most review copies directly from publishers and publicists. We don't review e-books yet as most of our reviewers don't have good e-book devices. Authors also occasionally contact us directly (editor@bookloons.com) in which case I ask for a summary, publishing details, and a link to an online excerpt so that reviewers can assess whether or not the book interests them.

Do you think there’s a lot of ‘facile praise’ among many online review sites? What is your policy when it comes to negative reviews?

There is certainly a fair amount of ‘facile praise’, not only among review sites (and on bookseller sites) but also on book jackets from other authors – as a reader, I find the latter most disappointing, when an author I trust leads me astray.

I believe that an objective review should let someone else know what the reviewer liked or disliked about a book, so the site visitor can get a sense of whether or not it would appeal to them.

We do write negative reviews when called for, but try to always end on a positive note.

Over the years, I have had a few authors email to say they were very unhappy about reviews. My policy in that case is never to modify the review, but rather to take it off the site if the author wants that. (I've done it 2 or 3 times in the last 8 years).

There was a lot of controversy last year between print publication reviewers and online bloggers. In your opinion, what defines a ‘legitimate’ reviewer?

That's an interesting one! We actually wrote an article ("What's in a Review?") on the subject last year with input from all BookLoons reviewers – and they had a lot to say.

My bottom line (quoted from the article)? "First and foremost, surely it's a wonderful thing to have this powerful grass-roots resource (the Internet, bloggers and review sites) spreading the word about good books and authors?" and in conclusion, "While I hope that literary reviewers will continue to remind us of what makes great 'writing', I – along with fellow readers and reader reviewers – feel perfectly free, ready and willing to comment on what makes great 'reading'".

What is your stand on paid reviews?

They're not reviews; they're part of book marketing, which is fine as long as you don't call them reviews and are above board with site visitors. I do not accept paid reviews on BookLoons, nor do I accept fees for featuring books on the site (as I understand some sites do). I do run ads to cover hosting fees, but they're clearly labelled as such.

Do you think it’s okay for reviewers to resell the books they review? What about advance review copies (ARCs)?

ARCs should not be sold – that's clearly indicated on the covers. But I think it's fine for reviewers to sell final copies if they want to do so, as the books are generally their only payment for reviews. I give my copies away (those I don't keep for my ever expanding personal library :-)).

Do you keep the author’s feelings in mind when you review?

When I write (or edit) reviews, I try to be tactful. But the review is not for the author (aside from helping give his or her book exposure), it's for the reader wondering if that book is to their taste. So I try to focus on that.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a reviewer?

Reading of course (and getting new releases of favorite authors early)! But also, the excitement (that all readers have) of discovering an excellent new author, and being able to play a small part in sharing that discovery with the reading world. One of our reviewers (Josephine Locke) put it well in "What's in a Review?", saying "My hope is that something in any review, even minutely, plays a note, reaching out and touching potential readers." That's why all of us read and review after all.

Thanks for this interview, Hilary!

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by Mayra Calvani
Zumaya Publications
Release date: February 2009
Print ISBN: 978-1-934841-18-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-934841-19-8
Parody/Satire/Women’s Fiction
Available on Amazon and as ebook from EReader.com

Sunstruck has its own site at: www.sunstruckthenovel.blogspot.com


Twenty-four year old Daniella is an architecture student living with her narcissistic artist boyfriend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Abandoned by her father at an early age, Daniella always falls for the wrong type of man.

Her most enduring male relationship so far is with her 30-pound Turkish angora cat. Thankfully, Daniella’s mother is always there to offer a shoulder.

Several strange mysteries are threaded through Daniella’s everyday life: her ex-husband, Ismael, has just opened an outlandish hotel for animal lovers that has her distraught; Ismael’s wife, a rich woman Daniella fondly refers to as “Lady Dracula,” has some gruesome ways to keep her skin looking young; Daniella’s mother is founding a revolutionary, feminist society called The Praying Mantises; the island’s national forest is being depleted of hallucinogenic mushrooms; meanwhile, young girls are disappearing and there’s a nut loose dressed as Zorro slashing the rear ends of women who wear miniskirts.

Oppressed by all these crazed, eccentric characters, Daniella feels herself falling into an abyss. Then something horrendous happens, making Daniella wake from her stupor and take charge of her life.


“Salvador Dali meets Terry Gilliam in a surrealistic romp that skewers the society of dilettantes and artistic poseurs. Reading Sunstruck is like having one of those long, convoluted dreams that seem to be totally logical until they twist off into another dimension entirely. Monty Python’s Flying Circus would be proud.” -Blue Iris Journal

“Brilliant” –MyShelf.com

“Dark and quirky humor coupled with quixotic characters adds to the surprising mix found in Sunstruck… I’ve never read a book remotely like it. Everything from the humorously weird to the actue macabre can be found between these covers, and then some.” -Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review

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Read an Ebook Week was created by Rita Toews in order to inform the public about the wonderful world of ebooks.

There are many benefits to ebooks, the most important ones being that they don't kill trees and that they're cheaper–sometimes A LOT cheaper–than their print counterparts. For a full list of benefits, you may want to visit EPublishers Weekly.

Between March 8-14, publishers and authors on the web will be offering special deals and discounts on ebooks. Two of these publishers are Zumaya Publications and Twilight Times Books.

Zumaya Publications publishes books in both print and electronic formats in a large variety of genres rnging from romance to mystery to fantasy and science fiction. In celebration of Read an eBook Week, 17 Zumaya authors will offer free copies of their books. All will be offered in eReader format suitable for reading on iPhone and iPod Touch and PDF, and many will be available in other popular ebook formats such as MS Reader.

In addition, copies of other titles by these authors will be offered at our online bookstore, Novel Ideas from Zumaya, at a 20% discount for the duration of Read an eBook Week. As a special offer, anyone who purchases a copy of M. D. Benoit's newest Jack Meter Casefile, Meter Destiny, can claim a free copy of Meter Made, the second book in the series, free. Since the first Meter Casefile, Metered Space, is among the freebies, this means readers can have the complete series for the price of one book.

Twilight Times Books also publishes books in both print and electronic formats.

Publisher Lida Quillen is offering Darrell Bain's autobiography, Darrell Bain's World of Books, as a free download, plus an additional free ebook each day. Among the selections will be Behold the Eyes of Light by Geoff Geauterre, Jerome and the Seraph by Robina Williams, No Place for Gods by Gerry Mills, Striking Back from Down Under by Dr. Bob Rich, The Last to Fall by Anne K. Edwards and Who is Margaret? by Celia A. Leaman.

Here is a list of ebook giveaways during Read an Ebook Week:

All week — Darrell Bain's World of Books by Darrell Bain
Sunday, Mar. 8th — Behold the Eyes of Light by Geoff Geauterre
Monday, Mar. 9th — Jerome and the Seraph by Robina Williams
Tuesday, Mar. 10th — No place for Gods by Gerald Mills
Wednesday, Mar. 11th — Striking Back from Down Under by Dr. Bob Rich
Thursday, Mar. 12th — The Last to Fall by Anne K. Edwards
Friday, Mar. 13th — Who is Margaret? by Celia A. Leaman
Saturday, Mar. 14th — Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine Issue Sept/Oct 2005
Saturday, Mar. 14th — Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine Issue Jan/Feb 2006

So why read ebooks? I asked Elizabeth Burton, Editor-in-Chief at Zumaya Publications:

"Books are books–ebooks are just more convenient than their print brethren. If you have vision problems, if you can't leave the house without something to read, if you spend any amount of time waiting for something to happen, if you have arthritis in your hand that makes holding a book uncomfortable, if you like to read in bed but your partner doesn't appreciate the glare–these are all good reasons to consider ebooks. That there are some incredibly good writers whose work you'll only be able to read digitally is just an added bonus."

On the future of ebooks, this is what she had to say:

"There was much lamenting when the mass market paperback crawled out of the pulp world that it would destroy the wonders of hardcover reading. The same, equally specious wail is not being aimed at ebooks. EBooks are just another way to read, one that appeals to the younger generations who've grown up with digital media but that also draws those who for any or all of the above-listed reasons want an alternative to print. They won't replace print books anytime soon, but the market for them will continue to grow."

There's no question that ebooks are the reading format of the future. Feel free to spread the word about Read an Ebook Week and don't lose your chance to get some free ebooks.


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